Understanding the Palestinian Quagmire

Why do Palestinians continue to elect terrorists (like Hamas) as their leaders? Too many Americans just don't get it. They can't imagine why anyone would do such a thing, unless of course, that's how the Palestinians really think inside, and they're all radical terrorists at heart. Of course, this is exactly what the Israeli government would like us to believe, and this message is conveyed regularly by Zionist apologists, both in the mainstream news, and from behind the pulpits of many Evangelical churches in America. The message is simple. Palestinians are Muslims, and Muslims are hate-filled terrorists. Therefore they can't help it. They hate Israel because they hate Jews, and they hate anyone who is not Muslim. They hate Israel because they hate freedom, democracy, women's rights…. {insert whatever you want here}. Then of course there is the Biblical card. The claim is made that the Palestinians hate Israelis because they've hated them for thousands of years, ever since the Old Testament, when the Palestinians were the Philistines. They can't help it, because it's in their blood.

Is that really the way it is?

I'm going to share with you some personal experience and some family experience that I think may help shed some light on the situation, and give you a perspective you may have never considered before. Before I do that however, I think I need to put down the Palestinian-Philistine myth. There is absolutely no biological or cultural connection between the Palestinians of today and the Philistines of ancient Biblical times. They are completely different people. The ancient Philistines are an extinct race and culture. Biologically, their descendants are spread out across many races and peoples. Culturally, they are nonexistent. Modern Palestinians are Arabs, not Philistines (or Canaanites), and Arabs biologically descend from the same ancient patriarch as Jews -- Father Abraham. The only difference is this. Jews come from Abraham through his son Isaac, while Arabs come from Abraham through his son Ishmael. I would expect a little better Biblical scholarship from those who claim to be "Bible Christians," but it amazes me how many times I hear the erroneous Palestinian-Philistine connection made from the pulpits of Evangelical churches. It's ridiculous.

Now on to the personal experience. I happen to know some Arab Palestinians, and few of them are Muslim no less. What have I learnt? Well, quite a bit really. I could give you are earful, but I'll keep it short. What I've learnt is this. While one can find a certain percentage of radicals in any civilisation, the vast majority of Palestinian Muslims hate Hamas, they hate jihadism, and they tend to be less "religious" than the general public believes. Or sure, during Ramadan they might visit a mosque more often, spend some more time in prayer, etc. This however is comparable to the way cultural Christians in the West tend to go to church more often during Easter, Christmas and Mother's Day. Culturally, this is just what people do. In practically reality however, far less people practise their religion as strictly throughout the rest of the year. I have worked with many Muslims in hospitals for many years, and I have yet to see one pull out a prayer rug in the middle of a shift and start prostrating toward the East. It certainly wouldn't bother me in the least if they did, but I have yet to see it. Another thing I've learnt about Palestinian Muslims is that they tend to be less religious than their Arab neighbours in Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Arabia. I have never met one who revealed to me a desire to establish an Islamic state in the Holy Land. In fact, most Palestinians admire Western civilisation, and by that I mean our education and social standards. I've learnt that the majority of Palestinians would like to ideally see themselves as a cultural bridge between Western civilisation and the Arab world. Perhaps this is one reason why so many other Arabs, in other countries, tend to look down upon them. Finally, I've learnt how things really work in Israel-Palestine. I've learnt how the Israeli government really does business when it comes to the Palestinian people, and let me tell you, it's not pretty. In fact, it reminds me of something very familiar. It reminds me of how the United States government treated the Native American tribes during the 19th century. I'll leave the detailed explanation up to the reader to investigate. There are plenty of resources out there.

Now for the family experience. While I do have some Cherokee ancestry, it's pretty far back there, so I don't have any personal stories to tell in regards to that. All I can say is that some ancestors of mine were forced to flee their homeland in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina on the Trail of Tears, only to stop after crossing the Mississippi River due to childbearing. That's all I know. The experience I have to share has nothing to do with that. Rather, it comes from the German side of my family. Now the Schaetzels have been in the United States since the 1850s, and are now so Americanised, you would never know we are German, were it not for the name. However, the Schaetzels had an interesting tendency. When you go back through the family tree, they tended to marry other Germans with only a few exceptions here and there. Thus our family ties to the old country have remained somewhat fresh throughout the years. As a result of this, we have family (and friends of the family) who lived through Nazi Germany and World War II. Of course there are stories to tell, and in the past I've kept these things secret, for fear that my non-German friends and family just wouldn't understand. Growing up in public schools, I was teased by cruel children for my surname. I was regularly called a Nazi, for no other reason than my German ancestry, but this was back in the 1970s. Americans have moved on since then, and I imagine children are more often teased for other reasons these days. That however, was a long time ago, and perhaps it's time I break my silence about these stories from people I knew (and know) first hand. These are real people who lived under Nazism and endured the allied bombings of German cities. Let me tell you how it really was, from their perspective, based on the stories they told each other. In learning these things, I think you might get a better understanding of the Palestinian experience under Israeli occupation.

Let me tell you what the average German citizen thought of the Nazis during the 1930s.  "We thought they were clowns."  That's what one relative said. "They were goofy clowns, who acted like children and rambled on about things that didn't make sense, but they put food on the table." It was the last phrase in that quote that put the Nazis into power and brought the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich. "They put food on the table."  You see the average German living in Germany during the 1930s just barely tolerated the Nazis. In short, most people thought they were eccentric fools. However, their economic policies were helping the average German family. You see, after World War I, Germany was placed under harsh war reparations by the allied powers. Thankfully the United States did not take part in this. It was primarily the European allies that forced this upon the German people. The result was economic chaos that played a large role in currency hyperinflation. Entire family savings were wiped out overnight, wherein it literally took a suitcase of money to buy a loaf of bread. The currency was eventually stabilised, but the damage had already been done. Germans were now poor. Their savings had been wiped out. They couldn't hardly make enough money to live, and by the end of the 1920s the Germans were hit with another economic collapse -- the Great Depression. The Depression kicked Germany while it was down, leaving Germans without hope. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in January of 1933 on the promise to turn things around economically. Germans were desperate. They would try anything, even electing "clowns" if that's what it takes, to turn the economy around and start putting food on their tables again. It worked. The "clowns" gave Germans economic hope again, and so they kept them in power. Setting up a totalitarian regime with a single-party system was easy for Hitler. Why? Because his party (the Nazi Party) was the only party that delivered on the promises it made to the people, or at least, that was the perception of the most people living in Germany at that time. As the years went by, German attitudes toward the Nazis changed from toleration to fear. By the end of the 1930s, speaking out against the Nazis was a dangerous activity, so people just didn't do it. The rest is history, World War II started, the allied bombs fell, and the Nazi regime was eventually crushed. I have a friend of the family, still living, who suffers from post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD) or "shell shock" because of the allied bombings of her neighbourhood during World War II. She lives in America, and is an American citizen. She loves America, but hates the 4th of July (Independence Day). Perhaps you can figure out why. I also have an extended family member (now deceased) who never could accept that news about the Holocaust. She was by no means a Nazi. She was a very loving person and opposed racism of all types. At the same time however, she could never believe that her own national leaders (when she was a child) could perpetrate such a horrendous crime against humanity. To her dying day, she dismissed the Holocaust as "Allied propaganda" to justify the war.  We Schaetzels protected our family and friends when they immigrated to America.  We never talked about their opinions to anyone. We told them to keep their thoughts "just within the family" and don't talk about them in public.  They listened and heeded.  Of course they did!  They were Germans, and Germans are a very disciplined people -- smart people too.  I also kept my mouth shut -- for nearly forty years! -- until now. I suppose my parents, aunts and uncles just assumed that because I was a such a small child I wouldn't understand their conversations, let alone remember them. They didn't know back then that I have a photographic memory. I see words and I would relive those conversations as I got older. I can remember the conversations they had 40 years ago like they happened five minutes ago. It wasn't long before I understood everything as an older child. Nobody ever needed to tell me to keep quiet about these things. I knew it instinctively. Maybe that's why those Nazi comments from cruel children in elementary school bothered me so much. I knew something they didn't -- something they couldn't possibly imagine or comprehend.

So why break the silence?  Why do I speak up now?  I'm not alone. Many others have gone before me on this. What difference does it make? I've told you nothing new, nothing you couldn't find out by visiting a few websites or reading some history books. Why do I speak about this now? I'll tell you why. It's because I find myself surrounded by people who simply don't learn from history, and the people in our time that seem to be the most guilty of this are Americans and Israelis.  You see, Palestine 2014 looks a lot like Germany during the 1920s and early 30s. Hamas looks a lot like the Nazi Party. Israel looks a lot like the European Allies -- but worse. Average Palestinian people remind me of my extended family and friends of the family. My family has seen all this before, and we've witnessed the consequences. We know what hard economic conditions do to the human spirit, and how desperate times produce desperate decisions, often leading to disastrous results. There is a difference though. Palestinians have endured far worse conditions, for a much longer period of time. The hardship faced by the German people in the 1920s and early 30s does not compare to the horrors faced by the Palestinian people for the last forty years!  Look at what a decade of hardship produced in Germany!  One decade of economic hell produced the greatest monster, and the most wicked regime, of the modern world. It's only redeeming value is that it was short-lived.  Meanwhile, the Palestinians have endured similar economic conditions for four decades, combined with national policies related to them that can only be compared to apartheid.  Hamas is the result of such desperation. Of all the people in the world who should know this, it should be the Israelis, most of whom descended from survivors of the Nazi Holocaust.  Their perpetual occupation of Palestinian land, along with the policies that result, have created conditions comparable to those in Germany that led to the rise of the Nazi Party. Why should they be shocked that desperate Palestinians would vote for the Nazi-like Hamas Party?

I find it discouraging to hear my fellow Americans, especially those in the Bible Belt, refer to Israel as the victim here.  I think part of it is a sense of guilt left over from the Holocaust.  The other part is ignorance, and a failure to learn from history.  When you subject a people to harsh living conditions for a prolonged period of time, they tend to forget their good senses and start electing leaders who are monsters out of desperation. If it can happen to Christians in Germany, then it can most certainly happen to Muslims in Palestine.  It's not a religion thing. It's not even a cultural thing. It's a human thing. I have little hope that the cyclic violence will stop in the Holy Land any time in the near future. If I ever see peace there in my lifetime I will consider myself extremely fortunate, but I won't hold my breath. I don't know if it's even possible for the Israelis to see the irony in what they're doing to the Palestinians, or for that matter, understand that they are just repeating history. It's hard to see the big picture when you're right in the middle of it. However, I think it's time for many Americans to stop playing the goodguy-badguy routine when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire. There are no goodguys in this conflict -- except for those working for peace -- the rest are just villains and victims on both sides.



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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!



Tony S said…
i think that another reason why those in the Bible Belt support Israel is because of their misguided eschatology.
johnnyc said…
Bottom line.....Israel has a right to defend itself. I don't think you would have to befriend an Israeli who actually lives in Israel to get a sense of what it is like to have 1500 + rockets fired at you. Peaceful negotiations you say? Don't think it's possible to negotiate with someone who doesn't think you have the right to exist. Egypt recognized Israel - peace. Jordan recognized Israel - peace. See how that works.
Pair O' Dimes said…
You're a very brave man, and I'm sorry for what you and your relatives went through. I applaud you, sir, and hope for the same fortitude for myself. I assure you that I happen to agree with you--and I'm of ethnic Jewish extraction, although I had to find that out myself because I think we've forgotten. My ancestors converted to the Catholic Church in the late 1600's.
Shane Schaetzel said…
JonnyNYC is absolutely right. Israel does have the right too defend itself. Just as the Allies had the right to defend themselves during WW2. However, the lesson of history is this. The Allies inadvertently created the problem with war reparation on Germany after WW1, and then once the problem was created, they had to defend themselves in WW2. The harsh economic conditions imposed on the Germans were what made the rise of Hitler and the Nazis possible in the first place. Had they treated Germany right after WW1, there never would have been a WW2. Hitler would have remained a nobody and the Nazis would have never risen to power.

Naturally I side with the Allies. I would be crazy not to. But at the same time, I have no pity upon them, particularly those in Europe. France and Britain were economic abusers of the Germans, long before they became victims of German aggression in WW2. They helped to create the rise of Hitler, so I shed no tears for them once they were attacked by him. True, Hitler needed to be put down. There is no doubt about that. And it took the bloodiest war in history to do it. No regrets about that either. But I'll tolerate no talk of Britain and France being the "victims" here. They unwittingly created the problem -- then they had to deal with the consequences.

The same goes with Israel and Hamas. By oppressing the Palestinian people economically and socially, they unwittingly created the problem of Hamas. They created the problem -- now they are dealing with the consequences. That's the lesson of history. Yes they have the right to defend themselves. Yes, Hamas must be uprooted. But I have no sympathy for the Israeli government who inadvertently created the problem they are now having to deal with.
Eugene DeLalla said…
Thank you for your very candid revelations. Once the snowball starts to roll down hill, it is quite difficult to stop; it just get bigger and bigger, and much more difficult to stop! That is what has and is happening in Gaza and in other parts of the Middle East. Bottom line: we get what we deserve.
If we continue to desert God, He will allow us that "right." His love in unconditional, but our salvation is not.